All across China, students were gearing up to return to classes yesterday, on September 1st, but due to the horrendous heatwave and continuous power cuts to take care of huge cities, this has been changed to September 6. This CNN news report tells of the desperation in my area of China, Luzhou (loo-joe), located quite near Chongqing.
Sichuan’s temperatures have soared as high as 40 (105 degrees F) during July and August. Many colleges don’t have air-conditioning the dorm rooms. At my college, dormitory air-conditioners were installed 3 years ago but to use them requires each dorm room to pay according to how much is used. The electricity cost was to be divided among the 4 or 6 students in the room. With a majority being from the countryside, struggling to pay even for their meals much less electricity, there was a lot of hesitancy to turn them on. I remember we had a lot of arguments among dorm mates concerning the use of their air-conditioners: complaints of it being too cold once on, complaints of cost, complaints of not everyone paying their fair share . . . .
A delayed 1-week starting date won’t relieve any of that, I’m guessing. It’s expected the heatwave will continue all through September, especially for Sichuan, but at least the delay gives everyone another week of rest. I imagine the freshmen will be soaking up all that family time while the upper classmen will be bemoaning yet another boring week hanging out at home.
Thus is the life of a student, yes?
Sichuan in the Grips of Covid-19
But just within the past 4 days, announcements now from my college, my church choir, Luzhou city government posts and Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, are all about one thing and one thing only: Confine yourself to your home, go out only for daily Covid testing in your neighborhood area, don’t panic if your Covid code (located on the cell phone) turns yellow or red, contact local authorities for further information, allow only one member to leave for shopping every 3 days, adhere to all regulations and cooperate with your local Covid task force.
All the announcements and urgent postings I’m reading seem to end with a positive spin of “Fight the virus! We will prevail!”
All this began first in Luzhou, when 2 positive cases were found through random testing. The two individuals had recently returned from another province and were eating out at a restaurant located in my college’s city district. Once found, the district announced for mandatory testing of everyone in the city with Longmatan District being closed.
Good thing our school and others delayed that September 1st starting date as students hadn’t arrived yet to start the school year. Otherwise, they’d have been stuck in the midst of a lockdown, on our campus with school leaders having to deal with their whereabouts and all the hassles of keeping them in their dorm rooms, delivering their food and testing them daily.
This morning, however, more messages from my Luzhou friends have noted other districts in the city are now closing down. Those 2 positive cases are now at 19 and most likely there will be more. My Chinese church choir will not be meeting for choir practice and worship services will be going back to online, which took place 2 years ago.
Chengdu more serious
Chengdu’s cases have suddenly soared as more and more positive cases are found, leaving that city on total lockdown. Much like Shanghai a few months ago, Chengdu’s 21 million residents are now experiencing daily testing and stay-at-home orders with food deliveries stepping up as well.
One of my former students, “Jason” Ke, has recently been employed in Chengdu working for a company that books cars for businessmen coming and going to airports across the country as well as the world. His position requires him to reserve private transportation for such individuals, Chinese and foreigners, which he does through phone calls and the Internet. With overseas services, he is required to speak English, thus his language skills are put to good use.
Jason’s parents, sister and brother-in-law, live in a small countryside village an hour from the city. When the rumors began of a possible lockdown in Chengdu, and local government officials promising “This will take place for only 3-4 days as we test everyone, beginning at midnight tonight”, Jason didn’t take any chances.
He immediately received his negative Covid test result, hopped on a bus and headed back to the countryside to stay with his family.
Within a few hours of his departure, the city announcements changed to total lockdown of all residents, including no one leaving the city or coming into the city, flights immediately canceled at the domestic and international airport, and detailed instructions of what to do, where to go, how to act and when normality might resume, which was touted “in just a few days.”
“Just a few days” is another way of saying “indefinitely.”
Jason sent pictures of his family and others being able to walk around their countryside neighborhood, continue planting or harvesting crops, go fishing on the nearby lake, head off to the local market to buy food and enjoy a life of freedom. Masks around others were to be worn and Covid testing required with Hazmat suited CDC staffers, but nothing as restrictive as those in the city.
Wise decision to get out while you can, Jason!
No one can predict if that promised “only-3-to-4-day” lockdown will hold true or not. In the case of Shanghai, days ballooned to weeks ballooned to months.
We shall see if Chengdu or Luzhou follows the same fate as Shanghai. Watch this space for updates!